I always knew the conversation about death would soon be upon us, especially after we bought our first pet, Gus the Fish
. We bought Gus on a whim back in September of 2011 and he immediately became part of our little family. For all that knew him, he had the biggest personality (I know this makes me sound crazy). However, Gus would get so excited anytime someone came around to pay him a visit, would flap his fins as if he were waving, and was seriously the most playful fish I’ve ever seen. Every morning Jackson would greet him with a big hello and would always remind us we needed to feed him if we had forgotten. Jackson loved to help daddy clean his bowl and hated it when the neighbors would take him while we were out of town. He would cry thinking we were giving him away which made us think even more how hard it was going to be when one day Gus died. We leave town a lot so this reoccurring sadness = my reoccurring fear that Gus wouldn’t make it by the time we returned. Part of me feels Gus died from being homesick, as crazy as that
It all started when Travis and I were in NYC for the week, Jackson was at my parent’s, and Gus was with our trusty neighbors. We received a call saying that Gus was not looking so well and should he not make it, did we want them to buy a replacement Gus before Jackson returned home? Our answer was No and we just prayed that after a good bowl cleaning he would soon recover. Our neighbor was right, Gus did not look good upon our arrival and wouldn’t eat for days. We were all frustrated, especially Jackson who one day turned to me and said, “Mommy, I think it’s time for a new Gus.” You can imagine my surprise + relief from this comment. It made me start to think that the death conversation of Gus the Fish might not be so bad after all.
Gus continued to go through the dying process through the month of May, hitting a surge for the two weeks in-between our NYC trip and our time downstate over Memorial Day week. However, us being gone didn’t help matters (I really do think he was lonely without us) and a few days after our return, we woke up to find that Gus had finally made his way to Fish Heaven.
It was actually Travis who discovered the loss before he left for work. Jackson and I were still sleeping (of course), so when I checked my phone I saw the text message Travis had left with a picture of Gus in the toilet. Ugh. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this conversation with Jackson and prayed that I didn’t screw it up and make matters worse. (You have to remember, we’ve had the same fish for almost two years and he really was part of our family.) However, the whole discussion played out better than I could have planned.
Jackson had decided he wanted to play in his room before heading to the kitchen for breakfast and he wanted me to sit in the chair and watch, which gave me time to prepare. When he had decided it was time for his oatmeal I told him I needed to talk to him. Our talk went something like this:
Jackson, you know how Gus has been really sick lately and not eating his food? Yes. Well, this morning when we woke up we saw that Gus had died. I want to see him. Well honey, Gus isn’t here anymore. I want to see. I want to see. (So we headed for Gus’ bowl in the living room only to find Travis had moved it to the kitchen sink to wash it out.)
He then wanted to know where Gus went so I said something like this:
Okay, so you know when we have to get a bug or spider? Yes. What do we do with it? We put it in toilet paper and throw it in the garbage or toilet. (Whew!) Yes, that’s right. Well, when fish die we do the same thing and put them in the toilet so they can float to fish heaven. I want to see! Well, daddy already flushed the toilet but he took a picture (thankfully!) do you want to see it? Yes. He stared at the picture for a moment and then said, “I want Gus back.” I explained that Gus is now in Fish Heaven with Jesus and is no longer sick. We talked about how great of a fish he was, shed a few tears, and then Jackson said, “Okay, it’s time for my oatmeal now.”
Since then, Jackson has stared at his empty fish bowl with sad eyes (see above pic) but insists on keeping it in the same place so we can remember Gus. He said he wants to get a new Gus that’s red, which we plan on getting at the end of summer. However, just yesterday while in the middle of Old Navy looking at kid’s shoes, Jackson tugged on my shirt and said, “Mommy, I miss Gus.” and started to cry. It was the saddest moment that broke my heart. I always wonder what he’s thinking in his quiet moments and yesterday I found out. He was thinking and missing his Gus the Fish.
R.I.P. Gus the Fish. You were truly the best and you will forever be missed. xo